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Type Private
Industry Firearms
Founded 1949
Founder(s) Dr. Ludwig Vorgrimmler
Headquarters Oviedo, Asturias, Spain
Area served Worldwide
Key people Ludwig Vorgrimler, Engineer

CETME is an acronym for Centro de Estudios Técnicos de Materiales Especiales (Center for Technical Studies of Special Materials), a Spanish government design and development establishment. While being involved in many projects CETME was mostly known for its small arms research and development. The CETME rifle is its most famous project and the CETME name is most often used to refer to this rifle.

CETME also designed the CETME C2 a 9mm advanced Sterling-like submachine gun, and the CETME Ameli (AMEtralladora LIgera) a light machine gun in 5.56×45mm NATO.


Spanish sailor with CETME C rifle.

Spanish Legion legionnaire with CETME L.


The CETME rifle was designed primarily by the German engineer Ludwig Vorgrimler, who based his design on the experimental German StG 45(M) and the French-made AME 49. The StG45 used a roller-delayed blowback mechanism somewhat similar to the roller-locking system patented by Edward Stecke in the 1930s in Poland and used in the MG42. The MG42 locking system actually locks completely and requires a short stroke barrel that travels backwards to unlock, compared to the StG45(M) system that never completely locks and does not require a moving barrel. The CETME design inherits the StG45(M)'s fixed-barrel. The first prototype rifles fired the same 7.92x33mm Kurz round as the StG45, and a variety of experimental 7.92 and 7.62mm cartridges were tested before settling on the 7.62×51mm CETME. This round was dimensionally identical to 7.62×51mm NATO, but with a lighter bullet and powder charge to reduce recoil, making fully automatic fire more controllable. Due to feedback from Heckler & Koch, the production rifle was chambered for the more powerful 7.62mm NATO. The Model B went on to be the foundation of the widely-deployed Heckler & Koch G3 battle rifle.

The CETME Model A began manufacture in Spain in 1957. The CETME series of battle rifles was manufactured in five models, the A, B, C, L, LC and LV models. The primary difference in the three first models is the absence of bipod and the lightweight C model, and the fact that the L, LC and LV models fire the smaller 5.56×45mm NATO cartridge.


Modelo A and A1

Developmental prototypes.

Modelo B

Production model, with a perforated steel handguard and chambered for the 7.62 x 51 mm CETME round. The 7.62 mm CETME differed from the standard 7.62 mm NATO round by having a lighter-weight bullet and a smaller propellant charge. The parts for these for the most part interchange with the later "C" model rifles. The Spanish Army adopted a variant of the Model B rechambered for the more powerful 7.62x51mm NATO round as the Modelo 58 Assault Rifle in 1958. The Modelo B could be converted to fire the 7.62mm NATO round if the bolt group and return spring are replaced with that of the Modelo 58.

Modelo C

The "C" model was a lightweight version that was chambered for the 7.62x51m NATO round. It was adopted by the Spanish Army, Air Force, and Navy in 1964.

Modelo E

The CETME Modelo E replaced the wooden parts of the stock with plastic and the steel components with aluminium. After a short period on the production line, it was discovered that they were weaker than the previous models and that continuous fire deformed the firearms rapidly, and due to this, relatively few were produced and they were quickly discontinued.


The CETME Model L was a downsized variant of the CETME system, chambered for the 5.56×45mm NATO cartridge. It was adopted by the Spanish Army in 1984 and was in service until it was replaced by the Heckler and Koch G36 rifle in 1999.

Civilian Versions

In the late 90's Century Arms International (CAI) began offering semiautomatic only civilian versions known as the CETME Sporter, which are manufactured from assembled military surplus and US made parts. Although largely built from Model "C" parts, there have been reports of model "B" parts in the Model "C" Century built rifles.

Due to the restrictions against importing receivers of select fire weapons, all receivers for these civilian versions are made in the US. Earlier receivers were of cast stainless steel, while later receivers were made from stamped and welded steel. Earlier rifles retained the wood furniture of the originals while later examples were available with Heckler & Koch style composite stocks. Due to state and local laws restricting weapons with assault weapon features, the CETME Sporter is also available with a permanently pinned muzzle brake rather than the original flash hider. Both civilian .308 Winchester and NATO 7.62x51mm ammunition may safely be used in the CETME sporter. Reviews of the reliability and accuracy of these civilian versions have been mixed, with earlier versions generally being considered more reliable and accurate than later examples.

Other CETME weapon designs


The CETME C2 is a Sterling type SMG.


This model was an unsuccessful attempt to replace the MG3 with a 5.56 mm Light Squad Automatic Weapon. The prototypes of the weapon were quite good, having good if not excellent performance in trials and first units, being tested not only in the Spanish army but by the British 22nd SAS regiment in 1984, beating the FN Minimi and HK33E. Production examples had far less quality, with poorer materials. The British Army returned their serial production units (a total of 600 purchased for SAS, SBS, and paratroopers) to Santa Bárbara and Spanish Army units never fully replaced MG3 (which is still in service) with AMELI (with only about 300 units in service and many units with functional problems due to low quality materials; further orders were cancelled). Both models are reportedly going to be replaced with H&K MG4.

Spanish marines lightly modified the weapon adding reinforcements and additional weldings in order to correct some functional problems.

Sources and literature

  • Manual del soldado de Infantería de Marina ( 1985 ). Marine Corps soldier Manual Edited by the Spanish Ministry of Defence.
  • Manual de instrucción básica de la Escuela Técnica de Seguridad y Defensa del Aire (ETESDA) (2002). Basic instruction Manual of the Technical School Safety and Air Defence (ETESDA) (2002). Edited by the Spanish Ministry of Defence.
  • Centro de Documentación y Publicaciones del Ministerio de Defensa. Publications and Documentation Centre of the Ministry of Defence.
  • CETME: 50 años del fusil de asalto español . (CETME: 50 years of Spanish assault rifle). José María Manrique García and Lucas Molina Franco. Edit. La Esfera de los Libros. (The Sphere of Books). ISBN 84-9734-398-0.

See also

External links

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